Animals in Ketubah Art (part 1)

There’s a long history of animals in ketubah art, both as symbols and as ornament. You’ve got your lions, bears, deer, doves, fish, as well as all the symbols on the zodiac (only backwards). Roosters make occasional appearances as do chickens and peacocks and once I even found a mermaid! I’m devoting a number of blogs to these animals beginning with fish, both because I love the shape and color of fish and because it’s such an important Jewish food item (think gefilte).

Animals in ketubah art--Ketubah Rivarolo Italy 1774 zodiac signs above text

Ketubah – Rivarolo, Italy 1774 with zodiac signs above text


Animals in Ketubah Art – Fish

Fish lay a lot of eggs! So what better fertility symbol? And what better place than on a ketubah when you might be thinking about starting a family.  But fish are not just about caviar.  Pisces, with its two fish, falls in the Hebrew month of Adar when we celebrate Purim, that festival of happiness and good fortune (the Jews were saved from destruction).  So having fish on your ketubah has multiple meanings. Here are some historical examples as well as some of my own. Although most of these examples have a pair of fish, I say you can’t have too many on a ketubah,  and I was able to find one with four.

I love the fish in this ketubah from Tunesia with the Hamsa inbetween. Impressive what you can make out of just 2 colors.

Animals in ketubah art-Ketubah Tunesia 1854 2 fish geometric border

Ketubah- Safaqis, Tunesia 1854


And these 4 fish in ketubahs from Calcutta, India. Similar designs, but fish with decidedly different personalities.

Animals in ketubah art - Ketubah Calcutta, India 1881 with 2 fish, lions, peacocks and flowers around text

Ketubah- Calcutta, India 1881

Animals in Ketubah art - Calcutta, India

Ketubah – Calcutta, India


The same basic design is getting more sophisticated with the fish in this example from Singapore. Looks like they might be able to walk across a street soon.

Animals in ketubah art - Ketubah Singapore with two fish and floral border

Ketubah Singapore


And another from Singapore that I couldn’t resist with its three pink goldfish.

Animals in ketubah art 3 goldfish

Ketubah Singapore, China 1937


I was surprised that this ketubah the country of Georgia was done in 1947, given its primitive style. I love how the smaller fish seems born from the top of the larger one, like Venus from the head of Zeus.

Animals in ketubah art - Ketubah- Sokumi, Georgia 1947 with two fish

Ketubah- Sokumi, Georgia 1947


Somewhat incongruously set on top of  an otherwise architectural design in this Viennese ketubah, these fish seem to be leaping over a pedestal like trained dolphins. The Hebrew on either side of them reads: Good luck fish. Or is it Good luck, fish!

Animals in ketubah art - ketubah Vienna Austria 1831 2 fish

Ketubah – Vienna, Austria 1831.


And here’s the ketubah I found from Ancona, Italy with 4 fish forming a frame around a Hebrew quotation for good luck.

Animals in ketubah art - Ancona Italy 4 fish and olive branch border

Ketubah – Ancona Italy 1831


And a few of my own ketubot with fish in the design. In the first example, the groom’s family was originally from Cochin, India and the couple wanted to honor that beautiful ketubah tradition.


Animals in ketubah art - Ketubah Cochin, India style with 2 goldfish

Cochin Custom Ketubah based on historical examples from Cochin, India with two goldfish


Animals in ketubah art - 2 leaping fish-couple under chuppah-pomegranates, figs, grapes, olives, Jerusalem

5 Species Custom Ketubah with two fish leaping by chuppah


Animals in ketubah art - Time of singing ketubah

Time of Singing Ketubah print with two leaping fish above text


Animals in ketubah art - Leaping-Fish Ketubah

Leaping Fish Custom Ketubah in the style of Czechoslovakian pottery







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